Monday, November 30, 2009

With Henry It Was Love at First Sight

Or perhaps it was with Henrietta. When loving a caterpillar, does sex really matter? Technically, for identification purposes sex might be key, but in this case the “Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars” makes no mention of a difference between males and females of this species. It does, however, mention the beautiful shiny black face and thick lustrous hairs. Others may have white or cream hair, but Henrietta’s was yellow.

Yes, I’ve decided it’s Henrietta after all. Why not anthropomorphize on the racier side? Speaking of racier sides, Henrietta definitely has one. Little did I know it when I first laid eyes on her, but she is an American Dagger Moth.

Just the name gives me shivers. She is so bad ass. And I haven’t even told you about the pencils yet! You must have noticed them though. Absolutely striking in combination with her shining black face are the five founts of longer black hairs known as “pencils.” The fifth is a little hard to see in this photo but it is there on her tail end, trust me. Cooler still is that they are called pencils. Face it, Henrietta and I are soul mates.

I’ll dream of her this winter and know she’s wintering in a cocoon of larval hair and leaves. In the spring, I’ll look for a moth with dark “daggers,” or pointed zigzag stripes. But for those of you south and west of the Rockies, eat your heart out. You aren’t likely to see a Henrietta in your neighborhood.

No, don’t feel bad. You shouldn’t take it personally. Henrietta just prefers a hardwoods diet. She’s heavily into deciduousness, that’s all.

If you’ve got a crush now too and you need a little more Henrietta action check out this website:

[Notes: This picture was taken 8/9/09 on the AT between Dalton and Cheshire MA. The “Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars” referenced was written by Amy Bartlett Wright and published in 1993 by Houghton Mifflin.]

[PPS The saga continues, read more about Henrietta in Food, Sex and Extreme Single-Tasking.]


  1. Don't stop - we want more insect biographies!

  2. Oh, I think you'll hear more on Henrietta before the winter is over... and about some other fabulous flora and fauna too.